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Social upheavals triggered by public distrust in the state - Survey

Kompas - February 6, 2012

Yohan Wahyu Ė Most of the recent social upheavals have been triggered by a decline in public trust in the state. Public pessimism towards the government's performance has stimulated the emergence of several mass movements, from solidarity actions through to the social media and mass blockades.

This public mistrust in the state was revealed in a Kompas survey conducted in 12 major Indonesian cities. Eight out of 10 respondents agreed that the performance of the states three principle institutions -- the executive, legislative and judicial wings of government -- were dissatisfactory.

Specifically, the majority of respondents in this survey expressed dissatisfaction with the government's performance on four issues. First, the government is seen as lacking in resolving land disputes. Second, although the state depends for its income on the production process and export of commodities produced by workers, the government has failed to resolve labour disputes.

The survey results also indicated that the public believes the government is unable to guarantee the rights or freedom of worship of minority groups. The Fourth problem that was revealed relates to the government's lack of seriousness in resolving cases of corruption that involve officials from the three state institutions.

The most concrete form of the public's loss of trust in the state is the view that there are no state institutions that are currently able to carry out their functions. Four out of 10 respondents believe there is not one state institution that is able to carry out its functions and duties in accordance with public expectations.

Mass movements

US sociologist Herbert Blumer notes that mass movements that emerge in society have to be understood as a collective effort to build something new, that is to create change. In the context of a society that has almost entirely lost is trust in those who run the country, the emergence of various types of mass movements is something unavoidable.

The survey also examined the basic reasons that have triggered the burgeoning of mass movements of late. In relation to the performance of the executive, eight out of 10 respondents cited the many regulations and laws that do not side with the ordinary people along with deadlocks in dialogue between the government and the people as triggering mass movements. The mass movement that emerged in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, is particularly relevant as an example of this.

A mining license was issued by the Bima regional government and given to a mining company resulting in the forced eviction and loss of livelihoods for communities living in the vicinity of the mine. Efforts by local communities to pressure the Bima government to revoke the license went unheeded. As a consequence, local communities were forced to form a mass movement to fight for their interests.

The other reason is related to the performance of the legislative that is seen as weak in articulating the wishes of the ordinary people who have no access to power. Instead of fighting for the interests of the little people, the House of Representatives (DPR) and the Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) often collude with the owners of companies or officials in the state bureaucracy. This view was articulated by almost all or 88.9 percent of respondents.

This was also the case for respondent's perceptions of the law, with as many as 91 percent stating that weak law enforcement has resulted in society tending to seek forms of mass justice in order to press for their interests. News reports carried by Kompas showing that in one day as many as three police officers are attacked and assaulted by mobs is one worrying illustration of the level of public anger over the police's performance.

Social media

Three types of mass movements that the public believes often rise to the surface are actions garnering support though the social media, protest actions by different social groups and movements involving blockades or occupations of an area. Public opinion with regard to these three types of mass movements is quite varied.

Seven out of 10 respondents in this survey agreed with actions garnering support through the mass media such as Facebook or Twitter. Only 38.2 percent of respondents agree with protest actions or demonstrations. An even lower proportion (15 percent) of respondents supports actions involving occupations or blockades of an area.

A number of things can be concluded from this. The relatively high proportion of respondents that chose the social media as a mass movement is linked to the issue of access to technology where the urban middle-class represents the largest number of social media users. Cases that have succeeded in garnering support through the social media have been closely linked with the interests of this group.

Protest actions and occupations meanwhile have two dimensions. On the one hand, for the protesters or parties that carry out occupations, this form of protest is the last resort after other means have been exhausted but failed to bear fruit. The toll road blockade by workers in Bekasi represents a strategic option they were forced to pursue in the face of "cooperation" between business and state institutions.

On the other hand, blockades are seen as causing both economic and social losses for other groups in society. In such cases the method chosen by the state to resolve these is often repressive. The Bima case demonstrates this problem. As a consequence, public opinion is influenced into seeing the consequence of occupation actions as not addressing the roots of the problem that cause the emergence of the action itself.

Nevertheless, a small ray of hope is remains fixed in the public's minds. One out of three respondents stated that there are still social figures who can be trusted and are capable of becoming leaders that society can follow. Of course an important proviso from the public is that such a figure must first and foremost have a high level of integrity and never have been ensnared in a legal case (Kompas Research and Development)

[Jajak Pendapat: Ketidakpercayaan pada Negara - Sabtu, 11 Februari 2012. Translated by James Balowski.]


Assessment of government performance

Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the central and regional government's performance on the following issues:

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What state institutions do you most trust to still be able to carry out their functions and tasks in accordance with the public's expectations?

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Assessment of movements

Do you agree or disagree with the following mass movements:

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Do you agree or disagree that the emergence of mass movements are a result of the following factors:

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